Saturday, August 19, 2006

ex-gay setbacks

Over the past year or so, I've been reading and occassionally commenting on two personal, anonymous blogs that support the 'ex-gay' viewpoint. One blog recently disappeared after its 'ex-gay' author's dwindling posts seemed to express his own disillusionment with his struggle.

And this evening, another prominent blogger admitted that the ex-gay struggle she has been part of is now over. This blogger's news is particularly sad since it involves a straight marriage and family. Also, the blogger has been so active in the blog community, sincere, and a caring voice, that I really do wish her and her family the best outcome. I would even argue that a struggling ex-gay should suck it up and at least finish raising their family before giving up the ex-gay experiment. But that is probably unrealistic.

Since I'm mostly a lurker on ex-gay blogs, I don't feel it is appropriate to rain on another person's faith and hope. Although I express my own faith and experience, I try not to attack or dismiss others' beliefs. Right now, I really don't feel it is appropriate to comment on some of these blogs. I hesistate to even post my thoughts here because I really don't want to appear to gloat. But these blogs do remind me of my own tailspin out of the ex-gay movement and religious fundamentalism. It was very confusing and scary to go from a highly idealized, black and white faith to a more pragmatic, questioning faith. Certainty was the appeal of the ex-gay movement and religious fundamentalism. Your sexuality doesn't match-up with doctrine? No problem. Ex-gay ministry will diagnosis the root causes the prescribe the cure. Seek an understanding of God, life, morality? No problem. Religious fundamentalism has all the necessary answers (as long as you ask the right questions). When the cracks in the foundation of these beliefs began to appear, I remember clinging to formula (pray, read the Word, discipline, etc.). Unfortunately, I ultimately felt like a failure for questioning my faith and not succeeding.

Assuming these are authentic, sincere bloggers, I'm glad they have willing to share their journeys with the rest of us and I hope they continue to share their experiences.

10 comments:

grace said...

Norm!,
I completely understand where you're coming from in this. You know I don't come from a prescriptive, fundamentalist, doctrine-based standpoint in my relationship with God....which is probably the aspect of me and my faith that makes the most sense to guys in your position. I see our lives and our relations to God as a journey, a story of sorts....and it goes on regardless of doctrines, methods, presprictions for healing, etc... I'm glad that your story has in some way overlapped with mine.

Right now, it's just one day at a time for me....which....in fact, it always is for all of us. Situations like this just magnify the fact that we should all be living that way regardless of the situations we find ourselves in.

Please feel free to comment to me anytime and say whatever is on your heart. :)

love,
grace

Norm! said...

Hi Grace,

Sorry for being such a coward and posting my real thoughts on my blog. I didn't think anyone read my blog, so I thought it would be relatively obscure and anonymous. I did post an anonymous comment of support on your blog.

Although from my own experience, I have a hard time understanding the ex-gay movement as being seperate from religious fundamentalism, I was speaking generally and not about your faith specifically. I have always appreciated your kind and thoughtful comments and your willingness to share your faith and life online.

I do hope you, your husband, and sons find some way to work through this. The stereotypical gay-husband-coming-out stories tend to gloss over the spouse and kids that are seemly left behind. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts.

Norm!

Joe S said...

Perhaps the ex-gays who are separate from religious fundamentalism don't speak up. But the ex-gay point of view cannot be entirely separated from spirituality. There is no secular reason to be ex-gay.

Norm! said...

Hi Joe! I suspect the NARTH-affiliated therapists and counselors would disagree with about no secular reason to be ex-gay. However, most of the testimonials I read on their website seem to be religiously motivated.

It has always puzzled me why ex-gay advocates seem to more often focus on non-religious reasons to oppose same-sex behavior and to support ex-gay programs.

Joe S said...

Yeah, it is kind of odd why religiously orientated organizations seek a “stamp of approval” from science.

Ex-exgays do this too. I’m not saying this to be disrespectful. I just don’t understand why ex-exgays use scientific reasoning to validate their own sexuality but don’t take it any further and embrace atheism.

As somebody who was raised in an evangelical community and “bullied” into adopting the exgay identity, did you have a “crises of faith” when you first went down the ex-exgay path? I’m only asking because I cannot separate my own exgay conversion from my religious conversion.

Norm! said...

Hi Joe,

Ex-gays and ex-exgays value scientific explanations and selectively use them to justify their own conclusions. Generally, ex-gays tend to have a faith-based conclusions whereas ex-exgays tend to have an experienced-based conclusions.

I don't quite agree that scientific reasoning leads to atheism, but I think I understand your point. Faith and science are not mutually exclusive. I believe we can learn about God by observing God's creation. I also believe God created our species to have faith and intellect to ponder these questions.

Like you, I cannot seperate my ex-gay experience from my spirituality. Confessing, surrendering and 'healing' my same-sex attractions was something I thought would improve my faith and relationship with God. However, after nearly two years of focusing my life on being ex-gay, I discerned that God must have more to life for me that trying to be ex-gay. So, I left the ex-gay ministry and took a step back from the church I attended. I wouldn't consider it a "crisis of faith", but rather a time to reassess and reflect on what my beliefs really were and what things I really didn't know.

E said...

It has always puzzled me why ex-gay advocates seem to more often focus on non-religious reasons to oppose same-sex behavior and to support ex-gay programs.

I don't know that it's that hard to understand. For one, most evangelical Christians believe that their faith is rational and that science will ultimately vindicate their beliefs (Exhibit A: the Intelligent Design movement).

For another, a lot of conservative Christians see conversion of gay men and women to heterosexuality to be nothing less than a societal imperative, and that's not something they can achieve simply by quoting Bible verses.

Not that their current tactic is gaining them much ground even among gay Christians, but at least it provides them with a veneer of respectability for their political agenda.

Norm! said...

Hi E,

I agree. What I found frustrating in my ex-gay experience was the swapping between the faith and science 'playing fields'. In the ex-gay program, I would ask a question in a faith context and the answer would be returned in a pseudo-science context and vica-versa. Whenever there was a weak spot in one field, ex-gay leaders simply changed the 'playing field' to the stronger context.

For example, the Bible doesn't specifically endorse turning gays into straights. In fact, Paul seems to endorse celibacy over opposite-sex marriage. However, ex-gay ministries' "change is possible" campaign intends to promote heterosexuality (disclaimer aside). So, ex-gay leaders turn to their pseudo-scientific psychology theories to justify their programs as in, 'Not only are same-sex behavior biblically prohibited, but also psychologically unhealthy.'

E said...

The cognitive dissonance that permeates ex-gay philosophy is probably the single largest factor that caused me to walk away from that movement. IMO it's the result of reaching one's conclusions first and then going back and cherry picking those bits and pieces that can be fit into those preconceived conclusions.

Heck, most conservative Christians used to have a very low opinion of Freud, until they saw how his theories could be used as a basis for reparative therapy.

Norm! said...

Exactly. And nearly any obscure, outdated, unproven theory that fits their ex-gay conclusion is often upheld as proof. Hence Richard Cohen's bizarre and infamous spanking and holding therapies.